Whatever you may think about Customer Value or Customer Centricity, if you are not working 24/7 with extreme urgency to improve your Outside-In business muscle, helping your customer's business, then you are about to get swamped by a giant wave.
Consider these pattern inputs:
- Jeff Immelt: 2 of 4 growth drivers: “applying the lessons of social media to the industrial world and building what we call the Industrial Internet” and, “speed and simplification because the only way to serve our customers better and compete in a complex world is by working faster and smarter”.
- Fred Wiersema and ISBM in their seminal research on the B2B Agenda: “These are defining times for B2B marketers. Corporate expectations from marketing are mounting, and the stakes are getting higher”.
- HBR-The End of Solution Sales by Adamson, Dixon and Toman:“the hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to”…”companies can readily define solutions for themselves”…customers are often way ahead of the salespeople who are “helping” them.
- The recent book from George Day and Christine Moorman titled “Strategy from the Outside-in”: From my perspective the book is a great testament about the power of running the business from the platform of Customer Value. But getting this Customer Value Platform right is very difficult to achieve because you have to be outside-in and not inside-out, i.e. you have to be customer centric.
- WSJ: CIO Forum: #1 Priority: “Hard-Wire to the Business, CIOs should be customer focused and knowledgeable about the business”. This one is amazing! CIO’s see the need to invest in technology that is customer facing.
Drivers of Change and Keeping Up
The sea change has two drivers 1) Technology allows all of us to find and communicate about everything and 2) Global Competition provides the connected world offers more alternatives. Everyone knows about these drivers, they are well socialized. But the pattern emerging to keep up is one whose shapes are of Customer Value and colors are of Speed. We need to have a conversation about Customer Value and Speed. Here is a start.
- Customer Value from the Outside-In. The sea change that is upon us has nothing to do with being really good at internally modeling customer value and converting it to results. It’s about getting good at the outside-in part…what’s-in-it for the customer. Are you helping them to solve problems? Are you working with them to solve new challenges in innovative ways? Are you challenging their thinking and helping them to see around corners? Are you helping their business? This is aspect of Customer Value that you need to have on the top of your to-do list right now.
- Speed. Understanding customer value from the outside-in is not good enough. Here’s why: The very customer who is the source of all of your outside-in customer value knowledge now has at their disposal the ultimate equalizer, speed. Between Technology and Global Competition your customers have quicker access to more solutions to their challenges. The speed at which customers are able to find alternatives to solve their challenges is moving at a mind boggling pace. And you know what; your customers are watching you. Are you keeping up? Are you operating with speed? Are you able to understand their challenges and bring ideas that are beyond the standard fare that is already available to them? Your customers need to partner with those who understand the new pace of business.
I work with my share of companies, speak on all things customer. This idea that customers are watching to see if you are going to be a leader in the new pace of business is the biggest miss I see companies make. Instead they have the same old debates about what they have tried before, argue the merits of being customer centric and so on and so on. The change they miss is that maybe the customer wasn’t ready before. Think about that.
What are you are doing to keep up with customers?